Designer Renato Balestra died in Rome on Saturday, aged 98. The founder of the Balestra brand will have his funeral service in the Italian capital Tuesday in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo.

The announcement was made by his daughters Fabiana and Federica together with their niece Sofia. 

The exact cause of death remains unknown.

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Who was Renato Balestra?

Renato Balestra was born in Trieste to a Mid-European cultural environment. His career in fashion began almost by chance, when friends send one of his sketches to the Italian Fashion Center. His talent was immediately noticed, and he was invited to take part in a Haute Couture show.

By 1953, he had achieved such success that he quit his studies in engineering and completed his apprenticeship at Jole Veneziani’s atelier.

In 1954, he moved to Rome and began working as a designer for prestigious fashion houses such as Emilio Schuberth, Maria Antonelli and the Sorelle Fontana.

His strong passion for cinema led him to design costumes for Ava Gardner in “The Barefoot Contessa” and “The Sun Also Rises;” for Gina Lollobrigida in “Beautiful but Dangerous;” for Sophia Loren in “Lucky to Be a Woman,” and for Candice Bergen in “The Adventurers,” among others.

His brand was relaunched earlier this year with a new course set by his granddaughter, Sofia Bertolli Balestra, with a first ready-to-wear collection presented in February during Milan Fashion Week.

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Renamed simply Balestra, the logo revisits the hand-drawn version designed by the founder in 1971 and appears in his signature color. Steering Balestra’s research, development and brand identity, Bertolli Balestra has been building the brand’s impressive archive, which includes over 40,000 sketches and drawings, hundreds of gowns, videos and newspaper articles, and had been declared of historical interest by the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities The brand remains privately owned by the family, with the founder’s daughters Fabiana — Sofia’s mother — and Federica Balestra at the head of the fashion house.